Yes, there is indeed going to be a debate about Calvinism and yes, yours truly has agreed to participate in it. After Ergun and Emir Caner showed up on this blog and began launching scud missiles against the doctrines of grace, James White reissued his challenge to Ergun to join him in a debate. There was quite a bit of dancing and dodging that took place before the comments on that blog finally flamed out, but then the challenge was continued via emails. After a week or so, the "powers that be" signed off on the idea, and Ergun and Emir agreed to debate, provided that they could do it as a team and that James select a partner--preferably "an SBC man." James asked me to join him and, after prayer and counsel, I agreed. We had hoped to set a date that was "sooner rather than later," but due to immense scheduling difficulties, have settled for the first open date in the fall.
I am not a debater. I am a preacher. Quite honestly, James does not need me by his side in this debate. He is quite capable from both his gifts and experience to handle this on his own. I have seen him in action. He is good. Very good. The debate format suits him well. The Caners may have insisted that he have a partner simply to cut his time in half!
I have never been a big fan of theological debates. I am glad that James engages in them and I appreciate those whose sense of calling involves giving themselves to this kind of work. But rarely does a debate seem to change people's views. Their greater value seems to be in providing a forum for measured give-and-take which can provide answers to questions posed by various theological perspectives. The audio recordings may serve this purpose in ways that are greater than even the live exchange.
With all of that said, I am glad to be invited to participate in this debate. It is past time for an honest exchange of views on the issue of historic Southern Baptist soteriology. The doctrines of grace have been easily caricatured and dismissed by folks who have been unwilling to represent them honestly. I am grateful to the Caners for agreeing to engage the issues in a setting where there will at least be the opportunity to provide an honest hearing. And I am grateful to James for inviting me as a "non-debater" to participate.
I am praying that this debate will bring honor to our Lord by showing how brothers can disagree strongly and decisively without resorting to the kind of name calling, misrepresentations, distortions that too often characterizes disagreements on this issue. I am also praying that the Gospel of God's grace will be set forth clearly and simply; that God's Word will be accurately handled; that truth will be honored and error exposed. I have no doubt that not only James, but also Ergun and Emir would join me in saying "Amen" to these petitions offered to our Lord. As God brings this to mind, please pray to this end.
Here are the details:
Monday, October 16th, 2006 at 7 PM
Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia
Cost: Free (all proceeds go the Tom Ascol vacation fund)